I’ve been reading the Physician on FIRE blog lately and he, like me, appreciates the utility of a top 5 list a la John Cusack’s character in High Fidelity. I’m going to be applying the principle to some concepts on the blog going forward. I hope you enjoy!
- Be a jerk. This violates the simple principle of being an RFHB. If you consistently treat people badly, yell at them, get snarky, or are otherwise difficult to deal with, you are unlikely to get good letters of recommendation. Once you do get a position, it is unlikely you will stay in it for long. If you treat clients and staff poorly, don’t communicate effectively, and have no compassion for others, you aren’t long for this profession. A specialist I worked with treated people quite poorly, and eventually was forced out of that position.
- Borrow too much for vet school. This may be due to going to a private school, buying a new BMW during school, and other bad money decisions. A loan more than twice your starting salary will make you a slave to money. You will have to pursue more lucrative jobs, you won’t be able to start your life as easily (buy a house, enjoy trips), and every decision you make will have the idea of your debt infecting it. Once you borrow it, you can’t get rid of it- it’s like having a child. I once worked with a vet who did buy a new car during vet school and had upwards of $250k in debt from school. It affected every single professional decision he made.
- Practice bad medicine. If you don’t stay up on the latest treatments, don’t maintain your curiosity, and don’t consult with colleagues, your medical knowledge will become stale. You will make poorer choices for your patients. Your colleagues and staff may begin to notice and quietly shuffle cases away from you. As a student/intern/resident, you will get poor evaluations and letters of recommendation. It’s understood that students/interns/residents are learning, so you don’t have to be PERFECT. In fact, that would be weird. But you can’t practice BAD medicine. I worked with a vet who had questionable decisions with the care of their patients and they were eventually blocked from seeing cases. They subsequently left the position and continued to have trouble at other positions.
- Do something unethical. It may be _legal_ to sleep with your clients, but it’s probably unethical and also dumb. Ditto sleeping with students. Overcharging your clients, selling them services or diagnostics they don’t need, and stiffing your employees all come to mind. This is separate from being a jerk because there are plenty of very nice people out there doing very unethical things. It’s also possible to do unethical things and practice good medicine. One faculty member I worked with (who was a very collegial, helpful faculty member) had some sketchy side-deal with a drug company which, when discovered, led to their termination.
- Break the law. This is probably the best, fastest way to sink your career. Abusing controlled drugs, drinking on the job, and committing a felony will all get you a quick trip out the door. And it is highly unlikely you will be able to progress in veterinary medicine after that. You’ll probably have to find a different career. One faculty member at an institution was abusing opioids, got caught, and got fired (and probably blacklisted from the profession).
Those are my top 5. You can avoid all of them by just being an RFHB and thinking things through. It doesn’t seem hard, yet people do the above top 5 ways every day. Don’t be one of them.